We gave it a C
With each album, the ambitions of Tori Amos grow grander, but not necessarily better. Using dramatic electrified harpsichords and string and brass sections, Amos couches her songs in their artiest settings yet on Boys for Pele. The arrangements never get in the way of her swooping voice, which is so vivid — you can hear her every breath and groan — that it sounds as if a microphone had been planted inside her mouth. The results could have achieved the intimacy of early Joni Mitchell. But Amos can’t leave well enough alone. Songs that begin with endearing simplicity turn into mini-operas. And whether she’s addressing racial prejudice that leads to murder (”Little Amsterdam”) or prostitution (”Blood Roses”), she mucks up her narratives with nonsensical imagery or jarring pop-culture references. Talent aside, Amos remains to the mannered born.